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Football | Italy

Massimiliano Allegri © Gallo Images

Balotelli set for Milan debut - Allegri



AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has virtually guaranteed that Mario Balotelli will start his first game for the club when the Rossoneri host Udinese at the San Siro on Sunday.

Balotelli joined Milan from Manchester City for a fee of around €30 million this week in a deal that will see him remain with the Serie A giants until 2017.

Although Allegri welcomed the Italy striker, he said the team must forget the recent media hype surrounding the 22-year-old star and maintain the impressive recent form that has seen them climb to fifth place in the table.

"Balotelli got here on Thursday and I have to decide if he’ll start or if he’ll be on the bench," Allegri, who led Milan to the league title in 2011 and a runners-up place behind Juventus last season, told reporters Saturday.

"Balotelli has definitely generated enthusiasm from a media point of view but we have to remain detached from that and maintain our balance just as we did when things were not going so well."

With Milan now only 12 points behind leaders Juventus and striker Stephan El Shaarawy second in the league scoring charts on 15 goals, the Rossoneri's worst ever start to a Serie A campaign now looks a distant memory.

It is now, said Allegri, that each member of his squad must step up to the plate.

"Up until now, (Giampaolo) Pazzini and El Shaarawy have done their duty, maybe even more than that. Now we have to start getting goals from the midfield and defence," Allegri added.

"To do well from here to the end of the season, I'll need every member of the squad. We’ll have to keep this pace to the end of the season."

Allegri gave few clues as to his tactical formation for Sunday.

"Pazzini and Balotelli can play together, not as part of a front three but as two strikers playing together," he said.

"I have an objective in mind and I’m trying to get to it."

Udinese, meanwhile, could provide a first big test of Balotelli's undisputed goalscoring talents, and his ambition to "help lead the club to success", as he said on his unveiling Friday.

"We have to get three points tomorrow against a good team that won’t allow us to play, that will close down spaces and so we’ll have to be patient," Allegri said of an Udinese side that sits four points behind Milan in the table.

"Balotelli knows full well that this is an important chance for him and at Milan he has the chance to really make his mark as he'll be a leading player."

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